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Nuer

Nuer (nōˈər, nŏr) [key], a Nilotic people living around Lake No in South Sudan. Their economy and social life generally revolve around cattle, which are grazed on the plains during the dry season and in the hills during the wet season. During the dry season, the Nuer also fish, hunt, and gather wild plant foods. At their initiation, boys receive six horizontal cuts in the forehead and are given cattle; thereafter they belong to an age grade, with whom they will advance into various positions within the clan over the period of their lives. Descent is patrilineal, and when a man marries he receives more cattle from his father (see marriage and kinship). There is no centralized political authority, but rather a number of autonomous village communities. Spiritual leaders, known as leopard skin chiefs, are employed in the mediation of disputes. E. E. Evans-Pritchard's ethnography (1940) is the standard work on the Nuer.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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